What’s growing?

Seed stand compressed

Several people have asked for a list of the varieties I am growing this season, so here it is, divided into categories:  “Veg,”  “Herbs,” “Edible Flowers” and “Flowers.”  For this post,  only crops grown from seed are included.  Bold print items are started indoors.  In some cases only the earliest plantings are seeded indoors and later ones are direct seeded.

BEANS, bush:  “Dragon Tongue,””Inspiration,””Provider,” “Royal Burgundy,” “Strike”

Beans, Fava:  “Robin Hood,” “Windsor”

Beans, Pole:  “Fortex,” “Kentucky Blue”

Beans, Lima:  “Speckled Calico” pole

Beets: “Bulls Blood,” “Detroit,”” Boltardy,”” Chiaggio,” “Ruby Queen,””Touchstone Gold”

Broccoli:  “Aspa-broc,” “Blue  Wind,” “Red Fire mini”

Brussel Sprout:  “Long Island Improved”

Cabbage:  “Gonzales” mini, “Alcosa” savoy, “Primero” red   “Little Jade” napa

Carrot:  “Adelaide,” “Danvers Half Long,” “Little Finger,” “Nantes Minicore,””New Kuroda” storage, “Chantenay Short Stuff,” “Red Cored Chantenay,” “Royal Chantenay,” “Scarlet Nantes”  (this is the year to really evaluate carrots!)

Cauliflower:  “Minute Man”

Celery:  “Golden Self-Blanching”

Chard:  “Orange Fantasia”

Cipollini:  “Gold Coin,””Bianca Di Maggio”

Cucumber:  “Parisian,””Little Tyke” “Pick A Bushel”

Greens:  Arugula “Runway” and “Slow Bolt,””Tres Fine” endive;  Mesclun Mix;

Kale:  “Dinosaur,” “Dwarf Curled Vates,” “Redbor,” “Red Russian,””Tuscan Baby Leaf”

Kohlrabi:  “Early Purple Vienna,” “Early White Vienna,””Kolibri,”

Lettuce:  “All Year Round,” “Beleah Rose,” “Black Seeded Simpson,” “Bronze Mignonette,””Freckles,” “Gabriella,” “Garden Babies,”“Jericho,””Kagraner Summer,” “May Queen,””New Red Fire,” “Petite Rouge,” “Pomegrante,” “Queen of Crunch,” “Red Deer Tongue,” “Red Romaine,” “SloBolt,””Tom Thumb,”“Little Gem,

Melon:  “Lilliput,””Minnesota Midget,”Sugar Cube,””Tasty Bits,””Green Nutmeg,”          “Mini Love” watermelon  “Gold Crown” watermelon

Okra:  “Jambalaya”

Onion:  :“Italian Red Bassano” I do mostly sets or plants…and lots of garlic and shallots but not from seed.

Paprika:  “Paprika” pepper, “Alma Paprika” pepper

Pea:  “Knight,” Little Marvel,” “Maestro,””Wando”  “Mammoth Melting Sugar,” “Dwarf Grey Sugar” “Little Purple Sugar”

Peppers:  “Blight Buster sweet,” “Early Jalapena,” “Fire N Ice,” “Merlot,” “New Ace,” “Italian Pepperoncini,” “Orange Star,””Sweet Red Cherry,”

Pumpkin:  “Baby Bear,” “Wee Be Little”

Radish:  “French Breakfast” “Watermelon”

Salsify:  “Sandwich Island”

Scallion:  “Evergreen Bunching,” “Italian Red”

Spinach:  “Gangbusters,” “Olympia,” “Summer Perfection,”

Squash, Summer:  “Sunburst, scallop””Cashflow,” “Greyzini”and “Raven” zucchini”; “Ronde de Nice”

Squash, Winter:  “Bush Delicata,””Butterscotch,” “Carnival,” “Honey Bear”

Tomato, small:  “Indigo Cherry Drops,”  “Indigo Blue Beauty,” “Sungold”

Tomato, early:  “Park’s Season Starter,” “Polbig”

Tomato, paste:  La Roma III

Tomato, main crop:  “Chef’s Choice Orange,” “Goliath,””Park’s Whopper,”

Tomatillo   (these self seed…does that really count? 🙂

Turnip:  “Purple Top”

Herbs:  Agastache “Golden Jubilee”; Agastache Purple; cress, borage, Basils  “Amethyst,””Caesar,””Lemon,””Cinnamon,””Italian Genovese,” ‘Dwarf Greek,””Windowbox Mini”; chervil; cilantro “Caribe”; dill “Bouquet”; fennel,  sage, summer savory; chamomile; feverfew;  curly parsley; Italian parsley

Edible FLowers for the potager:  Calendula “Bon Bon Mix”;  Dianthus “Orange Sherbet”; “Hollyhock “Queeny Salmon”; Nasturtium “Climbing Phoenix,””Creamsicle,” “Jewel Peach Melba,” “Tip Top Apricot,”;  Pansy “Frizzle Sizzle Orange,” “Inspire Terra Cotta”;   Salvia “Blue Bedder”; Snapdragon “Liberty Bronze,” “Montego Orange Bi-color,” “Twinny Peach”; Viola “Chantryland,” “Penny Orange,” “Sorbet Citrus Mix”

Flowers: Ageratum “Tall Blue Horizon”; Alyssum, “Peach” and “Gigas White;”  Asarina “Purple”;  “Balloonflower “Miss Tilly”;  “Bells of Ireland”;  Celosia “Tall Orange,” “Fresh Look Orange”; Cosmos, “Sensation Purity,””Snow Sonata,” “Sunny Orange”;  Dahlia “Sunny Reggae”; Feverfew “Gold Moss”; Four O’Clock “Scented Peach Sunset”;  Foxglove “Apricot Faerie Queen”;  Gomphrena “Qis Orange”; Lobelia “Riviera Marine Blue”;  Marigold “Durango Mix,” “Hot Pak Orange” (these are also for potager, but not edible)  Nicotiana  “Jasmine Scented,””Perfume Lime”;  Primula elatior “Piano”;  Rudbeckia “Chim Chimnee”;  Stock “Vintage Peach”; Tithonia “Goldfinger”;  Sunflower  “Dwarf Pastel Mix,””Peach Passion”;  Sweet Pea “Mammoth Choice Salmon,” “Painted Lady”;  Zinnia  “Cupcake Deep Orange,””Decor,” “Inca,””Mighty Lion,” “Oriole,” “Pixie Sunshine,” “Profusion Deep Apricot,” “Profusion Double Deep Salmon.”  Note:  Fewer perennials than last year, because hopefully all those dozens I planted last year will return to fill up space!

This may seem like a lot to some of you, and not so much to others.  It is not nearly so many varieties as I grew when I owned commercial greenhouses, of course.  And remember, I am not growing 100′ rows, just short rows and blocks of lots of things to harvest daily once the growing season starts.  There are enough plantings to can beans, beets, pickles, tomatoes, salsas, etc. and freeze peas, peppers, broccoli, etc.  Also enough herbs to dry for cooking and teas all winter, and bags of pesto for the freezer.  Never enough flowers though!!!!

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Free seeds!

My free seeds from Renee’s Garden arrived in the mail recently.  As a Garden Writer of America member, trialing seeds is one of the many perks of membership.  If you have not visited her website (www.reneesgarden.com) please do.  Not only will you find an extensive list of terrific seeds, but lots of growing information and recipes as well.  There are always lots of new, hard-to-find or exclusive varieties as well as the tried and true.  The “mixture” packets, those containing 5 varieties of radishes or carrots, or three colors of beans, or three types of summer squash, or a generous variety of hot peppers are especially economical for small gardens.   And, I love supporting small, family-owned businesses.  Last year, her “Gangbuster” spinach was the top performer in my potager. Here’s what I picked for my free trials for this year:

renee-2017-compressed  Notice a color theme here?  Yes, I selected flowers in shades of my favorite colors: apricot & orange.  This year, I am also adding some green flowers, and a bit more blue to contrast with the oranges.  Blue is not reflected in the selection, however.  Top left are “Pixie” Zinnias, little dwarf cuties in orange, yellow, and white that I’ll mainly use in containers, but maybe also in the Front Garden.  They remain short and compact and will bloom all summer in any hot, sunny location.  Below those  are “Creamsicle ” nasturtiums, for the potager, of course since they are edible.  I love nasturtiums in almost any color and grow lots, mixed with my squashes, brassicas, and in containers.   The color of these nasturtiums is a delicious as it sounds. Bottom left, a packet of “Decor” zinnias containing “Envy” green and bright orange zinnias.  Renee couldn’t have made a better combination for my garden this year.  She must have been looking over my shoulder as I made plans.  These will go here and there, but some in the new cutting garden for sure, because they will look terrific with my decor.  Next to them are “Mighty Lion” zinnias.  I grew them last year, and they were such a hit that I had to grow them again in the potager front border and the Front Garden as well, and one can never have too many zinnias for the garden, or for the butterflies.

I haven’t grown Bells of Ireland for years, but they are a terrific soft green spike of bells that are great for cutting, and they’ll add more lime green to the garden.  They hate to be transplanted, so I’ll have to start them in peat pots so the roots won’t be disturbed.  White flowers make the other colors in a garden “pop” so I’m adding white Jasmine-Scented nicotiana.  I’ve grown it in the past, but not lately, and I miss it.  The fragrance is lovely, so it must go in the deck garden where we can enjoy it, and where its height will replace the May Queen Shastas when they’ve finished blooming. Below it are “Scented Peach Sunset” four o’clocks.  The color looks luscious, and they are also fragrant.  Hummingbirds enjoy their trumpet flowers.  And, they form a bulb, like dahlias, that can be lifted in the fall right after the first frost, stored, and replanted again next late spring after danger of frost. I grew some four o’clocks last year, but they were too rose-colored for my garden.  I’m hoping these are more appealing.

The “Snow Sonata” cosmos is lovely, and a butterfly favorite. (Top row, third from left)  It will provide cut flowers and knee-high white flowers in the middle of some borders, and its airy foliage is always pretty.  Below that is the peach alyssum that I use to edge the main path in the potager, along with orange violas, miniature pale orange species tulips, and after the tulips, very dwarf orange marigolds.  The alyssum is fragrant, delicate, and trails gracefully over the edges of the raised beds.  It is a great attractor of hoverflies, those wonderful beneficial insects that devour aphids and almost all other harmful-to-veggies bugs, including their eggs.  The more hoverflies, the better.

The fourth row, top to bottom, are all veggies.  Top are “Robin Hood” fava beans, which are supposed to be earlier than the variety I tried last year (from another seed company.)  Last year the weather turned hot so quickly that the favas went into decline after only producing a few pods.  Partly my fault, I think, because it was my first time growing them and I failed to pinch out the tops once they were blooming well.  They are also more dwarf, so hopefully they won’t blow over in our strong winds as badly.  Middle packet is a red “Italian Scallion.”  I’m adding them, as well as a new bunching onion, because despite growing three types of onion sets and 10 lb. of shallot bulbs, we barely have enough storage onions to last until the new crops is ready, and we didn’t have enough early onions last spring.

Last packet is a new carrot, “Chantenay Short Stuff” that Renee sent me to trial.  I probably wouldn’t have ordered another carrot, because I have lots of seed leftover from 8 other varieties grown last year, but I’ll plant it and see how it compares.  It’s a shorter variety, and hopefully will have the same great flavor other Chantenay varieties carry.  I’m eager to get all these varieties growing, but it’s snowing again today, so I must be patient.  Forecast is looking pretty good, and March did come in like a lion, so I’m hopeful!

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End of the Month

February has come to an end….the warmest February in Indiana’s officially recorded weather history.  Even so, my gardens look pretty bleak, especially compared to many of the other blogs’ postings and photos.  I just keep telling myself, “spring is creeping closer, spring is creeping closer.”  So, here’s the end of the month review, mainly so you (and I) will have a basis for comparison as the season progresses:  The Front Garden greets you.

front-garden-feb-compressed  I warned you, there’s not much to see, but if you are visiting, you must walk by it.  At least there are bits of green, a few Cream Beauty crocuses, wisely closed on this windy, damp day, and some patches of lovely dwarf blue irises that look a little worse for wear after having been covered in snow and then bruised by pounding rains.  And, of course the 3 green meatballs, which will be your reference point when viewing this garden in the future.  Turn to your left for the Front Island garden, added late last spring:

front-island-feb-compressed  There are more shades of green emerging since you saw it last, but no other color yet.  I’m debating about adding another island garden under 3 more black walnut trees (outside the photo to the left) later this spring.  I need more room for hellebores, and this one island seems rather lonely.  Walking further to the north, beyond the front door and shrubbery is the little, narrow  Blue Garden.blue-garden-feb-compressed  Blue is not my favorite color (but it is better than red!) but I had this nice bench unsold when I closed the farm, and this space of wall that needed something.  It’s in nearly full shade, and not seen by many.  So far, only more dwarf blue irises here.  On around the house we go to the neglected (See “To Trim or Not to Trim” for explanation) Addition Garden.  This is the top half; it’s “L” shaped. addition-feb-compressed  Some perennials pushing through, and some more henbit as well.  😦  Let’s hurry on down the slope to the nearly as dismal Fairy Garden, which looks unremarkable without its fairy houses and such.  fairy-feb-compressed  This is on the north side of the deck and gazebo.  I’m worried that half the ‘Nifty Thrifty armeria’ seems to be dead.  The fairies won’t be happy.  Across the back lawn to the potager.  In the front borders, only more “Cream Beauty” crocuses planted last fall, and a few lavender crocuses from the year before are emerging since you saw it last.  However, in the south island the young white lilac is showing some buds.  That was a surprise since yesterday morn!  lilac-feb-compressed  Amble along the south fence of the potager to look inside.  All those empty beds and borders just waiting for better weather.  potager-feb-compressed And you can see that I’ll be hauling in more mulch soon to cover the paths again….if and when it stops raining.   Walking through the potager, we can see that there is some progress.  The garlic has formed the diagonals  garlic-feb-compressed  that are part of this year’s new design.  Last season it was crosses in the center large boxes.  In the others there is just a ribbon across the centers this year.  There are other signs of life.  The golden oregano is gaining some color.  The crinkly purple-shaded leaves of the anise hyssop are emerging, and leftover cilantro has grown large enough to harvest a few stems.  I was especially happy to see that the hyssop is greening up at the base.  It is one of my favorite tea herbs, and I use lots so I have 18 plants edging the northwest corner of the potager’s interior border.  Not pretty, but definitely growing.hyssop-feb-compressed  Out the gate near the greenhouse and up the slope past the proposed new Cutting Garden on your right (Nothing at all to see there except mud!)  to inspect the berry rows.  Nothing happening there, except for these (Shouting “Hurrah” here!) leaves appearing on the only gooseberry the deer haven’t eaten to the ground!  Sorry it’s fuzzy…blame it on my excitement or the gooseberry-feb-compressed  wind, which is dreadful.  I’m ready to hurry back to the house for a cup of tea, aren’t you?  It may be the warmest February on record here, but a blustery wind and damp temps in the 50’s is not ideal for strolling.  Come again next month, but dress in layers.  It could be snowing!

Thanks to Helen, The Patient Gardener, for hosting this meme.  It’s my first time, and I enjoyed it.  Hope you did as well.  Visit her site for lots more “End of the Month” wrap-ups and reviews.


Posted in garden design, garden planning, gardening, garlic, kitchen gardens, Potager, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

To Trim or Not to Trim

front-island-compressed   That is the question I ask myself every autumn.  Over the years I’ve had differing philosophies.  Some years  at the herb farm, all of the dead leaves and dying stalks remained in the gardens for the birds to enjoy and to provide shelter for beneficial insects.  Some years, knowing that spring at the farm was impossibly hectic, and with 22 display gardens plus the lavender field to tend, most gardens were trimmed and tidied in the fall, especially those near the shop and plant sales areas where early customers ventured most.  Now that I’m retired and have only the gardens at my home to tend, I still have the same debate.  Lack of time is not the issue.  I am the issue.  I’ve found  I really, really dislike untidy gardens, especially the front garden.  Throughout the year guests, UPS, FedEx, the mail carrier, etc.  walk along the sidewalk that borders the front garden (shown below ready for a new layer of mulch) so it must always be kept in order.  All was trimmed there, and in the nearby front island bed (shown above with a few daylily stalks yet to be trimmed) also visible from the sidewalk.  Both of these gardens are somewhat sheltered by the house from our strong west winds so overwintering perennials has not been a problem.  Facing East, they get the weak morning sun in winter so freezing and thawing is not a major factor either.


The deck garden was mostly trimmed.  Lots of bulbs emerge here in spring, and I can’t tolerate viewing those beautiful early bloomers amid dying stalks and dead foliage.  After all, I’ve planted over 2,000 bulbs the last two autumns, plus there was already a decent display in place.  However, I did leave half the mums untrimmed as a test.  I purchased 36 mums last autumn, early enough for them to get well-established before the onset of frost, and planted them throughout the gardens.  I really don’t want to have to buy that many again.  However, mums are notorious for disappearing over the winter.  Theoretically, those left untrimmed are more protected by their dead branches and their stalks help collect leaves at the base which adds further protection.  And the deck garden faces south so it does more of the freeze/thaw routine and it’s exposed to the west winds.  Good luck mums, trimmed or untrimmed.  Here’s how part of it with untrimmed mums, etc.  appears at present:  Not tidy!


The potager’s front border was trimmed and tidied, except for half the mums, again as a test.  I look at it all winter long from the big windows and even though it is some distance from the house, I couldn’t tolerate the mess.  Plus it is also crammed with bulbs for spring, so tidied it must be.  potager-front-border-trimmed-compressedShown above is the south half, ready for new mulch.  The two new island beds at each end of the potager were left untrimmed, except for the frozen zinnias removed to plant daffodils last autumn.  For some reason, these beds don’t appear that offensive.

That leaves the Blue Shade garden, which few people even notice even during the growing season let alone in winter; the Fairy Garden slope which is also fairly hidden and shaded.  Both were left untrimmed.


The Addition Border (above) faces west and is in sun all afternoons.  I left it entirely a mess on purpose.  I do love the concept of supplying birds, toads, and beneficial insects with food and shelter during the hard months.  However, I’ve watched from the bedroom windows, and haven’t really seen any birds gathering seeds from the stalks.  Maybe they don’t like cleome, verbena bonarensis, zinnias or marigolds.  Or, maybe the fact that we are surrounded on three sides by woods and weeds gives wildlife enough.   Regardless, the next nice day will find me there doing clean up before the bulbs emerge further.

I can’t wait for spring to arrive for the evaluation of this test.  As of today, no life is showing on any mums, anywhere, trimmed or untrimmed.  Of course, I’m hoping that since we had a mild winter here in Indiana all thirty-six mums will start growing.  In that case, next fall I can trim ugly mums with a clear conscience.  Maybe only untrimmed mums will survive, and I will be forced to learn to live with those brown mounds.  Or, maybe none will survive.  Maybe I’ll have to adopt the old-time estate gardeners’ practice of digging mums after they bloom, planting them in soil-filled boxes and storing them until spring, when they are divided and potted to grow on a bit before they are returned to the gardens.  Only time will tell, but unless there is major greening of the untrimmed plants and death of the trimmed ones, this autumn all the gardens will get major clean-ups so that come spring, I can just sit back, sip my elderflower cocktail and enjoy the thousands of spring bulbs.

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Last Harvest, First Harvest


Today I dug the very last of the potager’s 2016 crops: “Parisian”carrots.  This is the first time in forty years that I’ve left crops to overwinter in the garden.  Always before, everything not eaten immediately was harvested and canned, frozen, dried, or dug and stored.  Now that I’m 70, I view things a bit differently.  Why should I use all that time and energy to dig carrots and carry them to the basement to store in bins of  moist sand?  That sand is too dang heavy to tote down the stairs.  And then the carrots must be brushed to remove the sand and carried back upstairs.  So, as a trial I left one short 2′ row in the potager just to see what happened.  Actually, I expected them to freeze and turn to mush, especially when we had below zero temperatures with no snow blanket to insulate them.  And, although I’d debated covering them with a tunnel or some other protection, I procrastinated so long that winter was well underway and I shrugged, “Why bother?”

The Parisian carrots (shown above with a standard teaspoon for size relationship) were selected as the trial variety because I liked them least of the eight kinds planted.  I didn’t hesitate to make them the sacrificial test group.  Initially, they were an impulse buy because those little round carrot balls just looked so darn cute on the seed packet.  parisian-packet-compressed  And, they are French, or at least they have a French-sounding name.  Shouldn’t  a proper potager have some French veggies?  I also justified my purchase by recalling how poorly carrots had performed in the past in Indiana’s hard clay soil.  However, the new potager has lovely raised beds and decent soil (although it needs improving) so there is no reason to use only the top 2-3″for carrot growing.

The 2017 garden plan has no room for Parisian carrots.  They are a waste of good space, when I can double or triple the poundage by growing longer carrots in the same amount of footage.  That tiny little colander was all the harvest from 2′!  And I HATE peeling them.  (Younger ones can be scrubbed with a brush and eaten skin on, but these were hairy adults.) And they have big cores and not great flavor, at least to me in comparison to the others.  (The others:  Little Finger, Royal Chantenay, Nantes Mini Core, Danvers Half Long, Scarlet Nantes, Red-Cored Chantenay, Adelaide)  But I will definitely plant more carrots later in the season this year to winter over in the potager beds.  Definitely next winter there will be a tunnel over them for protection, or at least a good layer of mulch, and whenever the ground is not too frozen I will dig beautiful, fresh carrots.

I was a bit sad to dig the last crop from the potager, but as I gathered up the carrots I noticed a tuft of green in the south interior border.


The chives were already  4″ tall so I merrily snipped some at the base.  The first harvest for 2017!  Last harvest and first harvest all at once.  That’s plenty of reason to smile 🙂

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Goodbye Snowmen!


The first crocuses are bravely putting on their show, so it’s time for the snowmen to go!  Since early November, three wooden snowmen with their jaunty red scarves have decorated the front garden (above) and the potager’s front borders.


Through rainy storms, hail and snow they have manned their posts, always smiling.  I always smile back.  Maybe it’s their cute carrot-y noses.  But with the arrival of the crocuses, Mother Nature has signaled that it’s time for change, so I carry the snowmen back to the pole barn.  Their red scarves are removed for safe storage in the house, and they lean against the barn wall, covered with plastic to protect them from curious, messy birds until the gardens are frozen and bare again next autumn.

The gardens look a bit bleak right now, but soon the dwarf iris, daffodils, species tulips and other bulbs will join the crocuses to make a carpet of color.  That, too, will make me smile.

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Look what I found!

crocus-compressed-2017   The first blooms of my 2017 season!  This little patch of “Cream Beauty” popped up almost overnight in the front border outside the potager.  Because it was warm and (finally!) still, I’d gone out to repair a greenhouse  vent, one of which had blown off in the recent strong winds while we were in California last week.  I’d done a walkabout yesterday morn, while it was too windy to do the repair, and noticed there was crocus foliage up nearly an inch, but I didn’t expect flowers so quickly. What a delightful surprise!  Kinda made up for having to haul a ladder from the pole barn, climb up to take the bent vent framework off, find a pair of pliers to get it all straightened out again, find a washer to reinforce the broken screw hole, and put it all back together again.

It was a reminder that I need to reclaim all my tools and reinstate my own toolbox.  After I moved off the herb farm, most of my tools (and there were lots!) were just put into the garage (temporarily!?!?!)  I’d had a bucket of tools generally used in the greenhouse, a tool box under the counter in the Big Barn Gift Shop, and a handful of most-often used tools kept on the golf cart.  Plus there were lots of tools that employees used that were stored in the little garage at the farm.  Last fall, my ultra-tidy husband decided to clean  the garage and in the process put all my tools in with his.  Nicely sorted, so all the hammers are in one drawer, all the pliers in a second, all the screwdrivers in a third, etc., etc., etc.  Unfortunately, I have no idea what is in which drawer.  Searching for each tool and part required more than doubled the repair time.  So, added to my job list is to put all my basic tools back into my toolbox (which I’ve yet to find) and store it in my Lady Cottage.  Little things like that make one’s life so much easier, and make it possible to stay happily married for yet another year.

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